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Knightstown Funeral Car Co.
Knightstown Funeral Car Company, 1928-1942; Knightstown, Indiana
 
Associated Builders
Knightstown Galahad
     

The Knightstown Buggy Company was formed in 1900 (1898?) by Robert L. Silver and Charles Walters to manufacture carriages, wagons and hearses for their Indiana and Ohio neighbors.  It was located on Third Street between South Washington and South Jefferson and specialized in custom automobile bodies, ambulances and funeral vehicles until the firm reorganized in 1922.  Silver and Walter had a falling out  and formed two rival firms, both with Knightstown in their name.

Silver formed the Knightstown Body Company and marketed their products as Silver-Knightstown coaches starting in 1928. Walters formed the Knightstown Funeral Car Company, marketing his products as Knightstown Galahads. Both firms survived until WWII when the bulk of their employees went off to war and they were dissolved. 

Knightstown Funeral Car Company was the smaller of the two firms and their early coaches were called Galahads and were available on customer-supplied chassis that included Packard, LaSalle, Lincoln and Cadillac and at least one on a Chrysler Imperial CG (could be CL) chassis. When mounted on the low and streamlined 1930 Cadillac chassis, the Knightstown Galahad was surely one of the most beautiful coaches available in the early Thirties.

1931-1932 Knightstown Galahads were all-new and featured slightly arched window tops and a rearward sloped rear-quarter window. Knightstown liked to mount their bodies on chassis from their Indiana neighbor Auburn. They also built at least one ambulance on a Cord L-29 chassis, one of only five L-29-based professional cars known to have been built. Auburn and Cord's raked windshields, wide white-wall tires and dual-sidemounts made them some of the best looking classic-era professional cars. 

Skirted fenders were all the rage in 1933-34 and Knightstown pictured their Galahad funeral coach mounted on a streamlined 1934 Hudson chassis in their mailers. The angle of the Hudson's grill mirrored the sharply raked windshield of the Galahad body and the dual sidemounts were fully-enclosed in body-colored cellulose housings.

1935-1937 Gallahads were mounted on Cadillac, Hudson, LaSalle and Packard chassis. Knightstown joined the major players and started offering an Art-Carved coach that used a 3-way casket table with a pair of center-opening doors on each side of the vehicle that included small windows cleverly disguised within the pressed steel panels. With the doors closed, the coach looked like any other rear-loading streamlined carved coach. Knightstown also built some high-roofed ambulances whose additional space could be used to carry additional cots and rescue equipment that were needed by municipal hospitals and fire departments. Flower car were also available during the late 1930s and were built on Cadillac, LaSalle and Packard chassis. Knightstown also built multi-door airport limousines using stretched sedan chassis that usually included an integral luggage rack on the roof.

One striking all-white ambulance featured an etched spider's web rear quarter window and faired-in roof-mounted emergency lights all built on a super-charged 1939 Graham Sharknose chassis.

Quite unfairly, LaSalle had acquired the reputation of being a "cheap" Cadillac and was eliminated by GM just as Cadillac released their new Bill Mitchell-designed models in 1941. The new Cadillac was decidedly forward-looking, side-mounted spares had been eliminated and the new Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was available for the first time having been pioneered by Oldsmobile in the previous year. The prow-nosed look seen in the Thirties was gone, replaced by massive front-end highlighted by the now-famous eggcrate grille.  Headlamps were now mounted in, rather than on top of, the front fenders. Equipped with a Cord-like coffin-nose hood the new Cadillacs were noticeably different from their predecessors and set the standard for American luxury during the 1940s.

Knightstown built a number of Cadillac-chassised funeral coaches and ambulances prior to the War. Municipal ambulances were their bread & butter and Knightstown built quite few of them equipped with high roofs and built-in emergency lighting.  1942 flower cars featured a 5-window business coupe roof mounted on top of a standard Knightstown coach body that had been built without a roof. The coupe's blanked-in rear quarter-windows were filled-in and the base of the roof flowed straight back to the rear of the flower box which had a makeshift faux folded-convertible roof. The rear doors were left intact and could be used to load chairs or other graveside necessities. Access to the casket compartment was through the tailgate which had built-in casket rollers that matched those on the compartment floor. The height of the exposed stainless steel flower deck was adjustable so that different-sized floral tributes could be accommodated and a tonneau was included to cover the bed when not in use. 

Smaller firms like Knightstown were unable to secure the capital necessary to re-tool for lucrative government war contracts. So with no business, no new chassis and a majority of their employees serving in the war, Knightstown closed up shop at the beginning of 1943.

2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com

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Pictures
1937 LaSalle Gallahad Side-Servicing Hearse
   
 
   
 
References

The Professional Car - Issue #57 Third Quarter 1990

The Professional Car - Issue #92 Second Quarter 1999

The Professional Car - Issue #93 Third Quarter 1999

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

   
 
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Pictures Continued
1937 Knightstown Gallahad Airport Limousine

1937 LaSalle Gallahad Art-Carved Hearse

1937 Cadillac V16 Gallahad Hearse

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